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Officer charged with assault

A former officer stationed at Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt in British Columbia has been charged with sexual assault.

National Defence says in a news release that the assault was alleged to have occurred against another military employee in 2010.

It says Simon Duvall faces one count of sexual assault under section 271 of the Criminal Code, punishable under section 130 of the National Defence Act.

Because the accused was a member of the Canadian Armed Forces at the time of the alleged assault, National Defence says the matter is proceeding in the military justice system for possible court martial.

National Defence says the former officer with the 4th Artillery Regiment was also charged in November after a sexual assault was reported at 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown in New Brunswick.

The department says the alleged assault at Gagetown was reported to have taken place between December 2010 and January 2011.

Maj. Jean-Marc Mercier, a senior public affairs officer with the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal and Canadian Forces Military Police Group, says a date and location are still to be determined in both cases for trial.



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Wants charge thrown out

A lawyer for a Mormon fundamentalist leader says he will be seeking a stay of a polygamy charge because the evidence being used in the B.C. Supreme Court trial was already presented in a previous constitutional reference case.

Blair Suffredine, the defence counsel for Winston Blackmore, said he intends to file an application for abuse of process next week based on the Crown's reliance on evidence that was collected before a constitutional reference test in 2011 that deemed polygamy a criminal offence.

Blackmore, the head of a religious group in the southeastern B.C. community of Bountiful, is accused of marrying 24 women.

Suffredine's argument is based on a previous polygamy charge against Blackmore which was thrown out of court over allegations of "special prosecutor-shopping."

In 2007, Richard Peck was appointed as a special prosecutor to examine evidence of polygamy that resulted from a police investigation into Blackmore and James Oler, who also served as a bishop in the fundamentalist community.

Peck declined to pursue charges based on the constitutional argument of religious freedom but recommended that a constitutional reference case be brought forward to test the criminality of polygamy.

Former attorney general Wally Oppal later appointed Terry Robertson to the case, who decided to move forward in prosecuting polygamy.

The charge was eventually thrown out, as well as Robertson's appointment as a special prosecutor, on the grounds that Oppal had unfairly searched for a prosecutor willing to pursue charges when others had declined.

A constitutional reference case went forward with a ruling in 2011 that upheld laws criminalizing polygamy, determining it didn't violate religious freedoms guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Suffredine said his charter argument next week will rest on the fact that all evidence being presented at the current trial was collected before the constitutional reference case and cannot be used.

"What I'm saying is that this prosecution is all based on the old evidence that pre-dated the reference and no new evidence of anything else since the reference," Suffredine said outside court Thursday. "Therefore, it is an unfair trial to now come back and prosecute them when nobody knew at the time whether they were committing any crime."

At the start of the trial, Suffredine told the court he didn't intend to file a charter challenge, but changed his mind as the proceedings went on and he saw the scope of the Crown's evidence.

he evidence is and we know it's entirely based on events that preceded the reference," Suffredine said.

The trial is currently in its eighth day and has heard testimony from mainstream Mormon experts, law enforcement who worked on the investigation and Jane Blackmore, a former wife of Winston Blackmore who left the community in 2003.



Deadly to dirt bikers

A terrifying ordeal on an Alberta dirt bike trail could have played out in Kelowna if it weren't for a concerned trail user.

The lead rider in a group of dirt bikers ran into barbed wire strung across a trail in the Porcupine Hills area last weekend.

Jordan Sinnott drove right into the wire, and was lucky to escape with only bruises and a banged up bike. 

The other riders were able to stop just in time. 

"Today, we almost lost a fellow rider, who could have also been anyone of us in the group had we been leading," rider Todd Camp Bell said on Facebook. "This pathetic and terrifying act did in fact almost kill one of us."

Less than 24 hours later, Blake Kane discovered rope strung between trees in Kelowna's Gillard trail network. 

"While we were out the other day up in Gillard, we found a small light blue rope strung between three trees on a trail that split into a Y," he said. "It was tight and at neck height. We cut it down so no one would get hurt."

"It's murder if someone dies," he posted on Facebook.

Cpl. Jesse O'Donaghey of the Kelowna RCMP said: "Depending on the circumstances, a person deemed responsible could face a range of criminal charges as a result of their actions, which could relate to trespassing, causing damage to property and of course causing injury to another person."

Anyone with any information with respect to this incident is asked to contact Kelowna RCMP at 250-762-3300.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             



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No to lousy lumber deal

Christy Clark said talks with former president Barack Obama ended because of opposition by the prime minister, the international trade minister and lumber employers in B.C.

She has said Obama wasn't interested in getting an agreement and that Canada opted to negotiate when President Donald Trump took office.

Clark says she would have balked had she been the only person involved in negotiations on softwood lumber, an issue that has heated up during the May 9 provincial election campaign.

She has called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to ban shipments of thermal coal through the province's ports after the U.S. imposed tariffs of up to 24 per cent on softwood lumber from Canada.

The NDP issued a statement on the scuttled offer, asking whether Clark took a gamble by placing her faith in Trump.



High-risk offender warning

Police in New Westminster are warning the public of a high-risk offender who has moved to the Lower Mainland.

Jared Edward Harris, who has an extensive criminal record, has moved into a New Westminster transition house.

Sgt. Jeff Scott said Harris’ criminal convictions include breaking and entering, assault with a weapon, forcible entry, indecent act, invitation to sexual touching and multiple breaches of court orders.

In March 2013, Harris was convicted of unlawfully being in a dwelling and invitation to sexual touching against two young children, after walking into an open garage in Delta.

He received a 30-month sentence in federal custody for those offences.

“We’re concerned that Mr. Harris is a high-risk to reoffend. Because of the severity of his offences and history of breaching his conditions, we want the public to be well aware of our concern and to be reassured that we are doing everything we can to ensure public safety,” said Scott. “Our major crime unit is working closely with Mr. Harris’ probation officer to actively and closely monitor him.”

Harris' court-ordered conditions include:

  • He must reside as directed in a place selected by his Probation Officer.
  • He must submit to having his picture taken by any peace officer throughout the term of his supervision.
  • Harris shall not possess, own, or carry any weapon.
  • Harris shall not consume or possess alcohol or any controlled substance listed in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
  • Harris shall not enter any liquor store, beer and/or wine stores, or business whose primary purpose is the sale or distribution of alcoholic beverages.
  • Harris shall have no contact, direct or indirect, with anyone under the age of 16 years, save and except as necessary for a commercial transaction in a place of business.
  • Harris must not attend a public park or public swimming area where persons under the age of 16 years are present or can reasonably be expected to be present, or a daycare centre, school ground, or playground.


Mom's emotional plea

The mother of a missing Ecuadorian man studying in Vancouver has issued an emotional plea for information that could help find her son.

Lupe Carrera travelled to Vancouver from Ecuador and spoke at a news conference at the University of British Columbia.

Louis Gonick was last seen on the evening of April 16, getting out a cab in Stanley Park, near the Lions Gate Bridge.

The 21-year-old was studying on a scholarship at UBC, and friends reported him missing the next day.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Annie Linteau says there is no evidence of foul play, but that his phone, bank and social media accounts have been inactive since he disappeared.

Speaking in Spanish, Carrera said her son is the greatest gift and his family and friends are waiting for his return.

Linteau said the search for Gonick is continuing and anyone who may have seen him before 7:30 p.m. on April 16 is urged to call police.

"There has been an extensive search of the area in and around Stanley Park, as well as some of the water area around the Lions Gate Bridge. Certainly we are looking for any information that would give the family some much needed answers."



Winter won't let go

It appears Mother Nature wants us to know who's really in charge.

She won't seem to let Spring arrive gracefully without one last reminder of the season that was.

Joe Rich residents woke this morning to a large dusting of snow.

Depending where you live, accumulations could have been as much as 10 centimetres.

To the west, more snow is falling on Highway 97C, the Okanagan Connector.

Most accumulations appear to be settling in the areas around Pennask Summit and the Elkhart Lodge.

The forecast for the Connector calls for snow to taper off to flurries by about noon today as the snow level rises from 1,000 to 1,500 metres.

More flurries are expected this evening and overnight.

Flurries on the Coquihalla are forecast to change to rain showers later today.



Hateful flyers target trans

A transgender candidate in the provincial election is the target of hateful flyers in her Vancouver riding. 

Morgane Oger is running for the NDP in Vancouver-False Creek.

The flyers distributed in the West End this week say: "The truth is there are only two genders, male and female and they are God given and unchangeable" and warn against embracing "homosexuality and transvestitism."

Oger is the first openly transgender person to run for MLA in B.C.

While Oger was hurt by the message, she's more worried about others in the community.

"I know I'm resilient, but not everybody else is," Oger told CTV. "It's very sad."

Oger's BC Liberal opponent, Sam Sullivan, condemned the handouts.

"We are an inclusive province, and this kind of rhetoric has no place in the public discourse of this province," he said.

– with files from CTV Vancouver



Warning after trio of assaults

A trio of incidents in East Vancouver Wednesday has led to a public warning from police.

A 21-year-old woman was pulled into some bushes outside an unoccupied house and sexually assaulted as she walked on East 46th Avenue near Doman Street about 2 a.m. 

An hour earlier, a 34-year-old woman was grabbed as she entered an apartment building near Joyce Street and Vanness Avenue. When she screamed, the man ran away.

And, about 12:30 a.m., a 22-year-old woman was walking near Joyce and Monmouth Avenue when she was approached from behind and told not to move. The woman ran off and called police.

The suspect in all three incidents is described as a man between 20 and 40, about five foot six to five foot eight.

– with files from CTV Vancouver



Boozy bad guy on video

Nanaimo RCMP are hoping a surveillance video will help them nab a boozy bad guy who went to some effort to steal a couple of bottles of liquor during a early morning break and enter.

At 3:57 a.m. Monday April 24, the suspect broke into the Cassidy Country Kichen, 2930 Trans-Canada Highway.

“The video clearly shows the suspect approaching from the side of the restaurant with his face covered, gloves on and holding a large rock,” said Cst. Gary O'Brien. “After violently throwing the rock at the front door several times, the glass door smashes and the male goes inside.”

While not shown on the video, the suspect leaves within two minutes carrying two bottles of hard liquor and some mix.

The man then runs north bound along the Trans-Canada Highway.



Clark: ban coal exports

Premier Christy Clark wants the federal government to ban the shipment of thermal coal through ports in British Columbia after the United States announced new tariffs on softwood lumber.

Clark says she has written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking Ottawa to act by stopping the export of the coal, including from the United States.

The B.C. Liberal leader made the announcement Wednesday at a paper products company in Surrey while campaigning for the May 9 provincial election, saying the impasse over softwood lumber "gives us the freedom to do what I think is unquestionably the right thing."

"That coal, most of it is American, but not all of it that's shipped through our ports is dirty. It fouls the air. It fouls the oceans. It's terrible for the environment."

Clark said a ban would fit with her goal of developing a liquefied natural gas industry, arguing if China were to shift from coal to LNG it would have "a massive impact" on greenhouse gas emissions.

"So it's the right thing to do, but I haven't felt free to be able to do that because I haven't wanted to upset negotiations that seemed to be going along, granted at a slow pace," she said.

"But now that they have slapped a duty on Canada and they're calling us names, we're free to take an action that's long overdue."



Kootenay housing crunch

Residents of Vancouver and Victoria are already coping with near-zero vacancy rates, and now the mayor of a city in southeastern British Columbia says his community is feeling the same squeeze.

Kimberley Mayor Don McCormick says about 800 people have moved to the city over the past five years.

He says that amounts to a growth rate of two per cent every month, and the boom is continuing.

McCormick says the city is encouraging construction of more rental properties and that more homes also need to be built to keep up with population growth.

He says Kimberley's newest arrivals face challenges finding any appropriate accommodation.

McCormick says he regularly hears from employers bringing in new workers who are having difficulty finding a place to live. 



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